The Border Security Force (BSF) cannot push out from service soldiers who incur combat injuries, the Delhi high court has said, directing the force to reinstate a constable whose left leg was amputated in a mine blast.
Constable Rati Ram was discharged from the force after 22 years in service as he was declared unfit.
After joining the force in 1990, Ram was posted in Anantnag, Kashmir, on Road Opening Party (ROP) duty. On December 3, 1994, during a patrolling exercise, he lost his left leg in a mine explosion. The mines were placed by insurgents.
A staff court of inquiry had concluded that Ram was injured during active duty. He was fitted with a prosthetic leg and continued in service on sedentary duties, which require less physical activity. In 2010, he was stationed to man a milk booth.
From time to time, his medical condition was assessed and graded. But in November 2011, his medical grade was downgraded to A5 — a level treated as unfit for force duties. He was given voluntary retirement in February 2013.
BSF, with over 2.5 lakh personnel, does not have a disability-related rehabilitation policy.
A bench of justice S Ravindra Bhat and justice Deepa Sharma noted Ram’s contention that the force has overlooked his capability of doing light duties.
“The BSF’s policy to ‘encourage’ its personnel who incur combat injuries to seek voluntary retirement after 20 years of service is a one-size-fits-all,” the court said, adding it will make injured personnel “feel unwanted”.
The court questioned why the BSF had not explored ways to retain Ram in desk posting or sedentary jobs that are not field or combat related.
The force’s policy resulted in deprivation of pension and a life with no further prospects, despite the soldier’s fitness in other parameters, the court said.
“A force as large as the BSF… would have a significant administrative and support-staff component where these injured personnel can be assessed for work,” it said.
The court directed the BSF to reinstate Ram by exploring if he could be assigned a sedentary job. “If there is none available, then offer the option of voluntary retirement to him,” it added.
It also ordered that the period between the commencement of his voluntary retirement and now will be treated as having been spent on duty. This will ensure that his service benefits such as pension and gratuity also increase proportionately. “However, he shall not be entitled to arrears of salary etc,” the court said.